Ag Today December 30, 2019

New labor laws are coming to California. What’s changing in your workplace? [Los Angeles Times]

Sweeping new laws curbing longtime employment practices take effect, aimed at reducing economic inequality and giving workers more power in their jobs. Under one, companies could be forced to reclassify hundreds of thousands of independent contractors as employees with broad labor law protections. Under another, bosses could no longer force workers into closed-door arbitration proceedings, a tactic which protects businesses from costly lawsuits. The new laws are about “job quality — what it means to work in a just workplace,” said California Labor Secretary Julie Su. “California leads the way on labor standards and we’re not going to let employers do end runs around those standards. We want to support businesses who look at their role in a holistic and humane sense.”


Five ways to fix PG&E [Wall Street Journal]

Scores of people dead. Billions of dollars in property damage. A century-old company’s reputation in tatters. After years of wildfires sparked by its equipment, California’s biggest utility, PG&E Corp. , faces a safety crisis that has landed it in bankruptcy court and seeded doubts about its ability to survive in its current form. The Wall Street Journal asked safety specialists, researchers, former regulators and other experts for ideas on what PG&E and regulators should do next. A common message: The company and the state must seize the moment to make big changes. “Until and unless there are catastrophic incidents, there’s an impulse to let things go,” said  Michael Bromwich, a member of a federal commission that investigated the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After disasters, “Things that didn’t even seem possible suddenly become necessary.”


Yurok Tribe files suit against Reclamation [Klamath Falls Herald and News]

The Yurok Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association is suing the Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service in objection to the 2018 Biological Opinion, with their objections including insufficient flows in the Klamath River in May and June. The opinion was based on faulty data provided by consultant Thomas Hardy during the writing of the 2018 Biological Opinion. Klamath Water Users Association is a defendant in the lawsuit. “We’ve got some concerns about the use of it to begin with, whether it’s the right (habitat) curves or the wrong (habitat) curves, how much does that really tell us about coho salmon?” said Paul Simmons, executive director of KWUA. “The pending motion is to put things back in place the way they were a couple years ago with the 2013 Biological Opinion and the injunction – that was very problematic, especially in 2018, when we had to live through that. It would be very consequential if that were required.” Hardy, who was hired by the federal government to consult the 2018 Biological Opinion using incorrect data, has been identified in court filings related to the litigation.


Malibu wants to ban all pesticides. The state of California says that’s against the law [Los Angeles Times]

Wilmar Mejia stood behind his pickup truck in the hills of Malibu, watching a hawk soar overhead. Ahead lay the job, a mid-century ranch house with a glittering aquamarine pool and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Moments later, he shimmied into the house’s low-slung attic, crawling through tufts of white insulation studded with fresh rat droppings. “You’ve got tenants and they’re not paying rent!” the exterminator said with a grin. Mejia has been evicting vermin from Malibu for more than a decade. In lieu of brodifacoum blood-thinners — ubiquitous poisons so effective that hawks regularly bleed to death after eating mice that have eaten them — his new boutique pest control company, Tree of Life, uses snap traps and steel wool to keep rodents in check….If the city of Malibu gets its way, Mejia’s methods will soon be the rule. Earlier this month, the City Council approved a sweeping chemical ban that could pave the way for other coastal cities looking to protect wildlife by limiting toxicants. But state officials say it runs afoul of the law.


Trump tactically eroding science [New York Times]

In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts said, could reverberate for years. Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Donald Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus. But the erosion of science reaches well beyond the environment and climate: In San Francisco, a study of the effects of chemicals on pregnant women has stalled after federal funding abruptly ended. In Washington, D.C., a scientific committee that provided expertise in defending against invasive insects has been disbanded. In Kansas City, Missouri, the hasty relocation of two agricultural agencies that fund crop science and study the economics of farming has led to an exodus of employees and delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in research….Trump has consistently said that government regulations have stifled businesses and thwarted some of the administration’s core goals, such as increasing fossil fuel production.


Editorial: Newsom is being played by Big Ag on Delta water [San Jose Mercury News]

The governor’s apparent willingness to play into the hands of monied, agri-business players at the expense of the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta remains the biggest mystery of his short tenure. It also threatens to trash his reputation as a strong protector of California’s environment. The Delta supplies water for 25 million Californians, including about one-third of Bay Area residents. Scientists agree that allowing more, not less, water to flow through the Delta and west toward San Francisco Bay is essential for protecting fish life and providing a clean supply of drinking water for current and future generations. That means restricting pumping of water out the south end of the Delta into Central Valley farmland. The governor has been trying for months to get the major urban and ag players to reach a voluntary agreement on water flows from the Delta. His stated goal has been to avoid the lengthy lawsuits that follow a state mandate.